peter on sleep

peter gray on sleep

(2011) – Why Young Children Protest Bedtime: Evolutionary Mismatch – []

The monsters under the bed are real.

Infants and young children in our culture regularly protest going to bed. .. why all this protest

John B. Watson argued, essentially, that such behavior is pathological and derives from parents’ overindulgence and spoiling of children.[1] Remnants of that view still persist in books on baby care, where the typical advice is that parents must be firm about bedtime and not give in. This, the experts say, is a battle of wills, and you, as parent, must win it to avoid spoiling your child.

But clearly something is missing in this explanation from the experts. Why do infants and young children choose to challenge their parents’ will on this particular issue?

The answer begins to emerge as soon as we leave the Western world and look at children elsewhere. Bedtime protest is unique to Western and Westernized cultures. In all other cultures, infants and young children sleep in the same room and usually in the same bed with one or more adult caregivers, and bedtime protest is non-existent

What infants and young children protest, apparently, is not going to bed per se, but going to bed alone, in the dark, at night. When people in non-Western cultures hear about the Western practice of putting young children to bed in separate rooms from themselves, often without even an older sibling to sleep with, they are shocked.

“The poor little kids!” they say. “How could their parents be so cruel?” Those who are most shocked are people in hunter-gatherer societies, for they know very well why young children protest against being left alone in the dark.

When your child screams at being put to bed alone at night, your child is not trying to test your will! Your child is screaming, truly, for dear life.

Your child is screaming because we are all genetically hunter-gatherers, and your child’s genes contain the information that to lie alone in the dark is suicide.

Today, a child alone at night is not in serious danger of being eaten. Without the realistic dangers, the child’s fear seems irrational, so people tend to assume that it is irrational and that the child must learn to overcome it. Or, if they read the “experts,” they learn that the child is just testing their will and acting “spoiled.” And so, people battle their child rather than listen to both the child and their own gut instincts that tell them that any crying baby needs to be picked up, held close, and cared for, not left alone to “get over it.”

What do we do about evolutionary mismatch? In this case, two alternatives appear. We can do what the “experts” advise and engage in a prolonged battle of wills, or we can do what our genes advise and figure out some not too inconvenient way to let our children sleep close to us.

When my own son was small, long ago when I was a graduate student, the choice was easy. We lived in a one-room apartment, so there was no way to put him to bed separate from us. In some ways, life is easier when you are poor than when you can afford an apartment or house with more than one room.


Again, what’s good for kids is good for adults. Most kids (including mine) are chronically underslept. (We’ve been pretty fanatical about bedtime from the beginning.) (

‘fanatical about bedtime’ – part of the problem [like in keep going on routine/imprisonment ‘if it’s your own making’ can set you free]

imagining what we could see/become if we would listen deeper to their (infants) not yet scrambled ness ie: why/when they sleep.. don’t/can’t sleep

segmented sleep;

perry sleep alone law;

from Bruce D Perry & Maia Szalvatiz the boy who was raised as a dog:


it is thru the 1000s of times we respond to our crying infant that we help create her healthy capacity to get pleasure from future human connection


it’s hardly surprising that babies find being left alone to sleep distressing.. (for countless generations humans lived in small groups, 40-150 people.. communally – didn’t have own room.. own bed.. not just mother and child.. or 5 children to one daycare worker..)

peter on sleep;

et al



perry sleep alone law

h&g child

almaas holes law

Jean Liedloff

invited to exist ness

2 needs


maté parenting law et al


segmented sleep